Borough council ploughs on with local plan in face of fierce criticism

Romsave protesters at Wednesday's meeting

Romsave protesters at Wednesday's meeting

First published in Romsey
Last updated

SHAME on you! Shame on you!

Those were the words shouted by placard-waving campaigners at Test Valley councillors who approved a controversial planning blueprint on Wednesday night.

Councillors voted by 20 to 10 in favour of the Revised Draft Borough Local Flan, which includes 1,300 new homes at Whitenap and a further 300 at Hoe Lane, North Baddesley.

Around 300 protesters attended Wednesday’s meeting at the Crosfield Hall. They included members of Romsave, whose spokesman, Richard Buss, labelled the plan “flawed” and urged members to reject it.

In his address to councillors, Mr Buss warned: “The plan is not compliant with the National Planning Policy Framework and it will almost certainly be found unsound by the inspector.”

He said the council was wrong to to allocate most of its 1,650 planned homes for southern Test Valley on one site – Whitenap.

He added: “To ensure the plan is sound, it must be sent back for a re-draft to include a wider selection of sites across southern Test Valley. There are already enough proposed developments in the pipeline to reduce the numbers by 800.”

Mr Buss also warned a second rejection would be costly, as the council had already spent £1.6m on producing this revised plan.

“Should this current flawed plan end up being adopted, you individual names will forever be associated with the destruction of our beautiful historic market town. Tonight is the time to put party politics aside, do what’s right for the people and for Romsey and send this plan back for a redraft. Save the jewel in Romsey’s crown,” concluded Mr Buss.

Test Valley cabinet spokesman for planning, Martin Hatley, said the authority wasn’t breaking any rules by relying on one landowner (Timothy Knatchbull, of Ashfield Estate) to provide the land for the proposed Whitenap and Hoe Lane developments.

In response to concerns raised about increased risk of flooding in Romsey posed by the developments, Mr Hatley said that both the Environment Agency and Southern Water had been consulted about the sites and had not raised any concerns.

Lib Dem councillor, Mark Cooper, who spoke as a member of the public, as he had a declared interest because his home borders the Whitenap site, also raised the flooding issue.

Mr Cooper said: “Romsey’s infrastructure was built for 7,000 people. It now serves 17,000 and it is creaking. Look at the potholes outside this building (Crosfield Hall) and look at the sewage boiling up from the town’s manhole covers and the water running off from Abbotswood and now you want to add another 5,000 people.

“My electors tell me that what Test Valley wants to do here is deeply, decisively, detrimental to the character of Romsey. They resent the fact that big Test Valley is imposing a large housing allocation on Romsey, despite opposition from virtually all of Romsey’s civic life, with 1,100 written submissions against it.”

Mr Hatley said that there were around 2,500 families on the council’s housing waiting list and more homes were needed to meet the demand.

He also the proposed housing and associated employment facilities at Whitenap would help the town’s economy.

Tadburn ward’s Peter Hurst described plans to build a “large homogenous estate” at Whitenap, right up against the town centre, as “unacceptable”.

He, like other councillors including Kath Tilling, who represents Valley Park, suggested scattering the development around southern Test Valley.

Cupernham ward’s Karen Dunleavey also went on the attack and after the meeting she said: “I don’t think Councillor Hatley listened to anything that was said.

“All he kept referring to was housing numbers when the argument really was about where all the development is going. He kept saying the draft plan was sound and I hope that if it isn’t found sound, he does the right thing and resigns.”

A six-week consultation of the Draft Local Plan starts at the end of the month and after that authority planning chiefs will take into account the public’s comments and then make changes.

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